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GroupWise Archiving and Total Cost of Ownership

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Jeff Stratford

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Posted: 23 May 2006
 

Money, money, money. I'm sure you have a lot of it padding your IT budget. If you are like most organizations, you need to evaluate many different issues before making an IT purchase in order to spend your money wisely. Initial costs to purchase the software from some vendors may not be the final costs you end up spending to implement their product. Identifying the proper strategy for each archiving need can save money in the long term.

When deciding what email retention solution will meet the various needs your organization has, several issues should be considered:

  • Do you have a backup solution already? Backup is not archiving.
  • Storage needs - long term, short term, media, scalability, XML file, database or SMTP based.
  • Does the product take advantage of specific capabilities available in GroupWise, or is it a generic solution for multiple email systems?
  • Can end users easily access their offline messages or restore them with minimal or no training?
  • Does the product integrate with existing archiving solutions for other email systems?
  • Hardware needs - does the product require additional Windows servers or web servers just to manage the product or to handle scalability issues?
  • Is a SAN, database, server or web server administrator required, or can the GroupWise administrator manage the archive process?
  • Does the product require you to archive "their" way, or is it flexible enough to adjust as your organization identifies additional needs for archiving?

Archive and Backup

It is not uncommon to hear, "We have an 'archive' strategy - we back up everything to tape, then restore a given backup tape offline to allow a user to access the archived email." Backups of GroupWise data are really geared towards near term restoration, or disaster recovery. A product like GWAVA Reload is useful for near-term backup and end-user restoration of messages. Reload's "time travel" ability to quickly find and restore backed up messages is very beneficial for organizations. A solid backup strategy using a product like Reload is required in today's world.

On the other hand, email retention strategies have very different requirements. The common factor across all email retention strategies is the ability to search, save and review email messages. Organizations may be driven by industry or legal compliance requirements for their strategy. Others may need to allow auditors to search through millions of messages saved over several years. (It is too costly to restore a given backup from tape, search the messages, export them, then restore the next tape to make sure all messages in that time period are exported.) In other cases, specific GroupWise accounts may need to be exported to provide messages to outside legal teams. Internal security officials may need to search for and identify security violations. Email messages in accounts of former employees may need to be archived in order to free up GroupWise licenses. Whatever the need, well defined archiving strategies are required, in addition to a well-defined backup strategy.

Choice: It's All About Choice

It is important to understand that one archiving strategy will not address all the different archiving needs an organization encounters. Discovery 7 from Nexic meets many of the needs that GroupWise organizations face with archiving and managing email. Discovery helps organizations who are facing compliance and legal discovery requirements, employee turnover, expired mailboxes, archiving of personal messages, as well as alleviating the explosive growth of email databases.

To get a true grasp of the Total Cost of Ownership for an email retention solution, you should consider the following things in addition to the software purchase costs:

  • Storage formats that will work best for you
  • The level of GroupWise integration that is supported
  • Additional hardware or software requirements needed for initial deployment and for flexible, long-term scalability

Storage: XML-Files-Based Archives

Our experience in using a file based approach to archiving, such as using one XML file per GroupWise message, has taught us that a file-based approach is acceptable only for a small volume of messages. When an organization wants to export messages from a few accounts containing several thousand messages per account, XML files are easily managed and storage can easily be found for the files, on a server, DVD, or other removable media without any extra effort or having to budget money for new hardware.

Where the XML-File-based approach does not work, is when you are archiving thousands of messages for more than a few users. You can quickly end up with tens or hundreds of millions of individual files over a short time, requiring extra hardware and software just to be able to manage that number of files. While hardware and SAN solutions exist to manage large volumes of files, they often come at a high cost, in addition to the cost of dedicating resources to manage and maintain them. Do you really want to manage millions of XML files on your system? I didn't think so, either.

One other important note is that with XML you lose the one-to-many feature in GroupWise, where a message sent to several users on the same post office is stored only once in the post office. The XML file approach is one XML file per recipient, which has the effect of turning one message sent to 40 recipients into 40 similar but not exact copies of the original message. This requires 40 times the storage, further compounding the long-term storage problem.

An XML-file-based solution is not the wrong choice for some situations, but should only be used to solve the right problem. You don't want to use a butter knife to cut down a tree, no matter how polished and sharp the butter knife looks. Discovery 7 includes a fast XML file archiving option to address these lower volume, portable archiving needs many organizations have in certain areas.

Storage: SQL Database Archives

Because XML file-based archives are acceptable for a small volume of messages, the flip side is using a SQL database to store a high volume of messages. SQL databases such as Oracle can scale to billions of records, can index and compact records, as well as include fine-tuned performance and optimization capabilities. When an organization is required to store archived messages for several years, someone in the organization will have responsibility to manage and backup those archives. Organizations with this size of email volume usually employ a database administrator to manage their SQL databases, which may also be used for accounting, sales, human resources, etc.

Discovery 7 again draws on our years of experience in that we designed the SQL database architecture to be very similar to the GroupWise database architecture. This allows a single instance storage capability for each post office. The one message sent to 40 recipients is stored only once in the database. Our design in placing the single instance storage capability at the post-office level anticipates the sheer volume of messages and attachments that will be stored over time. This design can be related to an organization's GroupWise deployment design. In some organizations, only one or two GroupWise post offices can handle the volume of email for their several hundred users. Other organizations have tens of thousands of users spread across 50 or more post offices. In those cases it would not make sense, for many reasons, to put all of the GroupWise users and their messages onto a single GroupWise post office. Just like Novell does with GroupWise, we employ single-instance storage at the post-office level.

Single-instance storage at the post-office level does not mean you can only search on one post office at a time. All messages in a Discovery 7 SQL database can be searched no matter what post office the user belongs to. Likewise, a database can easily be partitioned or broken up by post office if the volume of messages archived from a specific post office ever gets too large for current storage or management capabilities.

Storage: SMTP Journaling for GroupWise

In following the concept that one archive strategy cannot address all of an organization's needs, Discovery 7 includes a new SMTP Journaling component for GroupWise. The ability to archive via SMTP provides GroupWise customers access to document management, compliance and retention products that previously had no solution for GroupWise. Many of these products were designed for specific business markets, such as legal, health care, government, education, etc., but for some reason were only created to work with Microsoft Exchange.

Microsoft Exchange employs a SMTP Journaling feature to allow third party products to collaborate with Exchange via a SMTP server connection to archive email messages. Exchange can forward messages to the registered SMTP server, where the server would then store and manage the messages external to Exchange. Many of these software companies have created solutions only for Exchange. With Discovery's SMTP Journaling, these products can now work with GroupWise, expanding the number of archiving products available for GroupWise.

Henry Ford has been credited with the phrase "customers can have any color they want as long as it is black," when referring to his new Model T automobile. Choice is good. Nexic recognizes that every organization has different needs for email retention.

GroupWise Integration

Allowing users access to their offline archives is an important part of an archiving strategy. Discovery 7 adds a menu to the native GroupWise client to open the offline archive viewer; this addition is called the Discovery Client. Discovery Client is a Windows application that looks and acts just like the GroupWise Windows client. We often hear from customers "I thought it was GroupWise". The need for training is minimal if they already know how to use GroupWise. Discovery Client includes only the features needed to search, save, print and review archived messages, thus keeping the application's file sizes small. Discovery Client can read archived messages in the XML file format, or those archived to a SQL database.

With the Nexic Forensics module, Discovery Client can allow an investigator to secretly connect to accounts in the live GroupWise system to search, save, print and review messages without the owner of the account ever knowing their messages were read. Obviously, security is paramount for this type of forensic investigation, so rights need to be granted by the administrator in order for a Nexic Forensics investigator to connect to and view another GroupWise account. Investigators do not need to have access to the domain database to view another account.

Leveraging powerful new server-side APIs introduced within GroupWise 6.5 and 7.0, Discovery is able to provide comprehensive archive management of all GroupWise messages on multiple platforms. Discovery uses the new SOAP API to provide unmatched integration and performance when communicating with GroupWise. Many Nexic employees are former Novell employees who worked with GroupWise and still maintain a close relationship to Novell. As a result, Nexic has been involved early on in helping test and provide design changes to Novell's new GroupWise technologies.

"Nexic has been a key contributor to the implementation of the SOAP protocol within GroupWise" said Jay Parker, GroupWise development manager for Novell. "Since the beginning of developing the new SOAP API, Nexic has provided valuable testing, feedback and enhancements for the new APIs."

As other software developers are just starting to get their feet wet using these technologies, Nexic has already developed, tested, gained experience, and developed tight integration with the new technology for well over a year. This is not anything new to Nexic.

Hardware and Software Dependencies

Now, we've discussed how choice is good, but I would recommend your archiving solution should at least be able to run on Linux. That is where the world is going. For those not as comfortable yet with Linux, Discovery 7 also supports NetWare and Windows. For administration, Discovery currently includes a Windows-based administration application called Discovery Console, which can run on Windows 98, 2000, XP. Discovery Console is used to define policies, select users, and settings for archiving messages. It is not a web-based administration application and thus does not require Windows 2000 server or Microsoft IIS in order to be configured and run.

Not much needs to be said about requiring IIS. There are plenty of IIS security articles on the web. Here is part of one I found humorous: "The subject of this new column, IIS Security, is bound to occasion some chuckling in the server room. More than one sys admin will read it and think: 'IIS Security -- isn't that a contradiction in terms?'" (What IIS Security?, By Joe Lima, Port80 Software, Inc., Open Web Application Security Project)

Discovery also does not have any dependencies upon or limitations due to Microsoft.NET. Microsoft's .NET strategy is limited to the Windows OS and integrates with Microsoft's IIS web server. Similar to Novell, our developers use low-level programming languages that are not limited to the One Microsoft Way (Microsoft's corporate address in Redmond). Do you think they are trying to imply something? This non-Microsoft dependency allows Discovery to easily work on Windows, NetWare or Linux. Let's face it, Linux is becoming a powerful platform for server based solutions, and should figure into any email server strategy.

Summary

The total cost of ownership of any email retention solution needs to take into account many different issues, beyond the cost to purchase the product. When evaluating a solution, consider the following ideas:

Archive and Backup

Don't be lulled into the urge to say your backup solution is also your archive solution, nor that your archive solution is your near-term disaster recovery solution. In most cases you need both types of solutions.

Storage Format

1. A low-volume, portable XML-file-based solution allows messages to be saved to DVD, or other media for storage or to be shared externally.
2. A high-volume SQL database solution allows hundreds of millions of messages to be retained for multiple years in a scalable database, accessible via standards-based protocols.
3. SMTP Journaling provides GroupWise customers access to document management and to compliance and retention products that previously had no solution for GroupWise.

GroupWise Integration

1. GroupWise Client integration allows end users to easily access offline archives.
2. Is the end-user client interface already familiar to end-users or do they need additional training?
3. Is the archiving product limited to archiving GroupWise messages, using a specific operating system?

Hardware and Software Dependencies

1. Consider whether additional hardware, software, web servers, or dedicated resources are needed to manage your solution and allow for growth and future scalability. Will you need additional Windows 2003, NetWare, or Linux servers and resources to manage them in order to implement you archiving solution?
2. What is required to run the software? Do you already have existing hardware resources that can be used?
3. Can a GroupWise administrator run and manage the archiving process, or are other hardware/software administrators required to be involved (e.g., running Windows 2003 server and IIS)?

For additional information on Nexic Discovery, visit www.nexic.com


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